Let me start from the very beginning. After spending two days at Gangtok, we decided that it was time to head west. We zeroed in on Pelling as our next destination and went about identifying the best way to get there. One can take individual cabs or shared cabs. Individual cabs in Sikkim are expensive and typically charge Rs. 100 for 4-5 kms. The Bus service does exist but the timings were very restrictive, and we wanted to experience shared cabs once. Moreover, we had already traveled in a local bus while commuting from Bagdogra to Gangtok.
After having breakfast of parathas and masala omelette at our homestay, we headed towards the station from where the shared cabs for Pelling start. By the time we reached the station it was already 9am and we got to know that next cab will be at 11am. We got our seats booked and headed towards the MG road for a walk. It was during this time that we shot most of the photographs for the Fashion of Sikkim post.
These shared cabs are very important in Sikkim and are the main mode of commute. They are usually tata sumo or mahindra jeeps. Each cab "accomodates" 10 passengers. 2 on the front seat and 4 on the middle, & 4 on the last. Gangtok to Pelling costs Rs 250 per person which is very reasonable considering that it is about 115kms and takes a little more than 5 hrs to reach. This is mostly because of the terrible road conditions.
Keeping your bags light helps in these situations :). VJ and I had 2 backpacks and one large umbrella. The cab driver placed our backpacks on the roof of the car, and throughout the bumpy ride we were comfortable with the thought that the driver would have tied the bags down with ropes. In Ravangla I got down to purchase some snacks. I bought some standard chips, a chocolate, and an interesting tamarind and chili aam-papad like preparation. When I turned back, I just happened to glance at the roof of the car. I was shocked to discover that our bags were just lying there, and there was no hint of rope to be seen.
3/4 of the ride was already over by then. I asked the cab driver and he laughed at my face. "Madam, we travel the same route every day. We know what kind of bags can roll off the roof. Trust me when I tell you that yours is of the non-rolling type." Humbled in the glow of this profound knowledge, I meekly took my seat. However, till the time we drove into Pelling, I kept praying for our non-rolling bags to stay that way.
One note on Ravangla: This is a small town in South Sikkim and is famous for its relationship with clouds. Apparently, the way clouds play hide and seek here is one of the main reasons why tourists visit Ravangla. Apart from the sheer variety of birds and the breathtaking views of several mountain peaks, of course. A Bengali couple travelling with us in the shared cab got down here and the way they described the place, for a moment we felt like getting down here ourselves. However, we decided to stick to our original plan of heading to Pelling.
By the time we drove into Pelling it was already 5pm and all our muscles and bones were aching. Thankfully our non-rolling type bags had survived the journey too. If there's anything we wish Sikkim Government could work upon is the condition of the roads. There was already some work in progress, but the speed seemed very slow. Till new roads are built, rides through the state are bound to be exciting yet character building experiences.